WordPress Rejects Second Legal Request to Remove Photoshopped Image Mocking Indian PM

— Mumbai’s cyber police department seeks to remove content hosted on this blog, BuzzFeed, Google Blogger, Amazon CloudFront, Tumblr, and Flickr

In August, my hosting provider, WordPress, rejected a legal request by Mumbai cyber police to censor a clearly photoshopped image I republished from BuzzFeed last year.

The image, which depicted Indian prime minister Narendra Modi homoerotically embracing his right-hand man Rajnath Singh on an idyllic beach, was deleted by BuzzFeed following a legal threat from Mumbai police alleging defamation.

In case you missed it the first time:

Last week, WordPress rejected a second request by Mumbai police to remove the offending image from my blog. Here is an excerpt from that request as provided to me by Automattic, the company behind WordPress:

Subject: – Remove Photo, Preserve and Provide Details of Objectionable/morphed photo …SHO (SML 28/09/2019)

WHEREAS, Cyber Police Station, Crime Branch, C.I.D., Mumbai, has received a complaint regarding uploading of Objectionable Material by below mentioned link showing morphed/Vulgar Photos/Comments on Muslim Community gods and goddess, BJP Leaders & National Congress leader party in abusive and vulgar manner.

It is found that the suspects are posting such exclamatory and defamatory morphed/vulgar photos with the purpose to create UNREST, BREACH of PEACE which might result in LAW & ORDER problems in Maharashtra, India…

REQUIRED INFORMATION
1. Creation details -IP address with date and time.
2. Login and logout details I.P. Address with date and time from
date…
3. Address book and scraps details of the user
4. Registered Email ID used to access these URLs.
5. Registered Mobile Number of these URLs.
6. Any Other relevant Information of

Please furnish information on TOP PRIORITY BASIS so as to avoid Law and
Order problems in Maharashtra and INDIA.

Thanking in anticipation of an early response to facilitate the enquiries.

(S.S.Sahasrabudhe)
Senior Inspector of Police,
Cyber Police Station,
Crime Branch, CID, Mumbai.

Here is what a spokesperson for Automattic sent me in an e-mail:

As the request does not comply with our requirements, we will not be taking any action against your site at this time … While we may preserve information about your account, we have not turned over any information. We will not turn over any information unless we receive a valid request for the information, or a court order. If we do receive such a request, unless we are legally prohibited from doing so, we will inform you and provide you time when you may attempt to quash or legally challenge the request.

In addition to targeting content on my blog, the request also asked to remove content hosted on BuzzFeed, Google Blogger, Amazon CloudFront, Tumblr, and Flickr, including:

• This parody movie poster depicting Modi as an action hero (via Amazon CloudFront):

• This image depicting Modi as a Lion (via BuzzFeed):

• This image of Modi in a dress (via BuzzFeed):

• This image of Modi dressed as Aladdin (via BuzzFeed):

It does not appear that BuzzFeed, Amazon, Google, or Flickr have complied with the Mumbai police department’s demands. However, all the offending content hosted on Tumblr, including several anti-Islamic and pornographic images, has been deleted.

The Mumbai cyber police did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

You can read the full request via the Scribd embed below.

Reason: Indian Government Attempts to Remove Material From Western Sites

— Reason magazine’s The Volokh Conspiracy hoists Indian cyber police for making frivolous legal demand to censor this blog

Via “Indian Government Attempts to Remove Material from Western Sites,” by Eugene Volokh, Reason, August 27, 2019:

Northern Irish blogger Dean Sterling Jones reports on a successful demand that Buzzfeed remove the photo, and on an unsuccessful demand that WordPress remove it from Jones’ own blog post, which had reported on the Buzzfeed incident. I confirmed that the takedown demand came from the Mumbai Cyber Police…

Click here to read the full story.

WordPress Rejects Mumbai Cyber Squad’s Frivolous Legal Request to Censor This Blog

— Mumbai cyber police are determined to scrub the Internet of homoerotic photos of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi

Last year, I blogged about bullying attempts by Mumbai’s cyber police squad to censor BuzzFeed re: this clearly doctored image of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi embracing his right-hand man Rajnath Singh on an idyllic beach.

source

Since then, I’ve noticed an almost daily volley of oddly specific incoming search terms on my blog, including: “modi fuck pics,” “modi sex,” and “india fuck modi.” Either someone really likes Narendra Modi, or Mumbai’s cyber police are spending all of their time scouring the Internet for reasons to be offended.

Today, it appears that mystery has been solved. Automattic, the company behind blogging platform WordPress, has rejected a frivolous legal request by the apparently easily offended cyber division to censor my earlier blog post. Written in a Trumpian ALL CAPS style, the three-page document states that the department was acting on a complaint it received from an unknown person, who objected to the allegedly “perverse” rendering of Modi and Singh.

“It is found that the suspects are posting such exclamatory and defamatory morphed/vulgar photos with the purpose to create UNREST, BREACHofPEACE which might result in LAW&ORDER problems in Maharashtra, India,” reads the nonsensical request, which was personally signed by Senior Inspector of Police, S.S.Sahasrabudhe.

From there, somehow it gets worse, with the department demanding that Automattic immediately furnish the mobile phone numbers, login details, e-mail and IP addresses of publishers of the offending content. The demand is listed as a “TOP PRIORITY BASIS so as to avoid Law and Order problems in Maharashtra and INDIA.”

An addendum to the document cites Section 91 of India’s Code of Criminal Procedure, which broadly permits “any officer in charge of a police station” to request “any document or other thing” from “the person in whose possession…such document or thing is believed to be.”

In an e-mail, a representative for Automattic dismissed the request.

“As the request does not comply with our requirements, we will not be taking any action against your site at this time,” the spokesperson said. “While we may preserve information about your account, we have not turned over any information. We will not turn over any information unless we receive a valid request for the information, or a court order. If we do receive such a request, unless we are legally prohibited from doing so, we will inform you and provide you time when you may attempt to quash or legally challenge the request.”

In addition to my blog, the cyber squad’s demand also targeted at least one other blog allegedly responsible for hosting objectionable content, which I will now share in the interests of full disclosure.

Mumbai Cyber Police Demand Personal Details of Modi Critics

— Mumbai cyber police are demanding that U.S. tech companies hand over personal details of Internet users who insulted Indian PM Narendra Modi

Last year, I blogged about efforts by Mumbai’s “cyber police crime division” to purge the Internet of doctored images of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Since that post, the censorious cyber squad has refocused its efforts on trying to scrub the Internet of derogatory terms associated with the famously gaffe-prone Indian PM.

Narendra Modi (source)

Recently, the department sent Google a criminal complaint ordering the removal of all search results for “Feku No. 1,” a derogatory Hindi slang term that, according to Urban Dictionary, refers to “[a] person who tries to project himself as a people’s leader by spreading false propaganda using paid media and crony capitalists.”

The term became synonymous with Modi in 2013 when a political opponent used it to mock the Indian PM and is allegedly intended to “outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs,Defamation” and “create UNREST, BREACH of PEACE which might result in LAW & ORDER problems in Maharashtra, India,” according to the complaint.

The complaint was filed by senior inspector Ravi Sardesai, who is reportedly “an old hand at handling cyber crime.”

In a separate criminal complaint, Sardesai also recently ordered Google to remove all search results for “CHUTIYA modi.” According to Urban Dictionary, Chutiya is “[a] uniquely Indian expletive [that] classifies the recipient as either an idiot, or an ignoramus or someone behaving stupidly. Derived from Chut, Hindi for vagina.”

But Sardesai’s most aggressively heavy-handed demand, listed as a “TOP PRIORITY BASIS so as to avoid Law and Order problems in Maharashtra and INDIA,” sought that U.S. tech companies, including Google and YouTube, immediately furnish the mobile phone numbers, e-mail and IP addresses of creators of the offending content.

source

Section 91 of India’s Code of Criminal Procedure permits “any officer in charge of a police station” to request “any document or other thing” from “the person in whose possession…such document or thing is believed to be.”

A quick scan of the invaluable Lumen Database, which archives online takedown demands, shows that Sardesai has sent dozens of similar demands within the past year, most of which include requests to “BLOCK/DELETE” a seemingly endless flow of allegedly “defamatory morphed/vulgar photos” of Modi.

source

Per my previous post on the Mumbai cyber division’s legal shenanigans, those photos include a widely shared photoshopped image of Modi homoerotically embracing his right-hand man Rajnath Singh on a beach.

Mumbai Cyber Police Shut Down Gay Modi Photoshop

— BuzzFeed deletes homoerotic photoshop of Indian prime minister following legal threats from Mumbai police, highlighting gay rights issues, censorship in India

The doctored image, which depicts Indian PM Narendra Modi embracing his right-hand man Rajnath Singh on an idyllic beach, is one of 18 related images included in a January 4, 2016 BuzzFeed listicle by Imaan Sheikh, “18 Modi Photoshops That Should’ve Never Fucking Happened.”

source

On Wednesday, that number mysteriously dropped to 17.

source

In a comment, a spokesperson for BuzzFeed said:

BuzzFeed India removed the image in question after receiving a notice from the Mumbai Police alleging defamation.

It’s not the first time police in Mumbai have tried to censor the homoerotic photoshop.

In November, Mumbai’s cyber crime department ordered Google to block the allegedly “defamatory morphed/vulgar photos” as published on BuzzFeed, Facebook, Twitter, and others, on the basis that the offending images were intended to “create UNREST, BREACH of PEACE which might result in LAW & ORDER problems in Maharashtra, India.”

The department also demanded that Google hand over personal information about the creator of the photos, including mobile phone numbers, e-mail and IP addresses. 

Via the Lumen Database, which archives online takedown requests:

source

As of publication, all but two of the flagged Facebook links are still searchable using Google.

There’s no evidence Google possesses or handed over any of the requested personal information.

Homosexuality is a taboo subject in India. A colonial-era law still in force today, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, forbids “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”—that includes gay sex—with offenders facing fines and up to 10 years in jail.

India’s home minister, who is depicted as Modi’s beau in the gay beach photoshop, previously said he supported Section 377 because “we [referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is chaired by Modi] believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act that cannot be supported.”

Recently, publishers have joined gay Indians in the legal cross hairs.

As reported by The Washington Post earlier this week, it’s becoming “increasingly difficult” for journalists and editors in India to do their jobs due to frivolous legal threats by Modi loyalists.

Loyalists to the country’s powerful Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, have bullied editors into taking down critical stories, hushed government bureaucrats and shifted from the common practice of filing defamation cases to lodging more serious criminal complaints, which can mean jail time and take years in India’s overburdened court system.

Modi, popular but thin-skinned, has effectively cut off the mainstream media, forgoing news conferences to communicate directly with his vast electorate through Twitter, where he has 40 million followers. India fell three spots on the World Press Freedom Index to 136 in 2017, according to the watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, below Afghanistan and Burma, because of growing self-censorship and the activity of Hindu nationalists trying to purge “anti-nationalist” thought, the group said.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s minister for electronics and information technology, denies that his government has attempted to impede press freedom.

Via the WashPost:

[Prasad] said any suggestion that the government was hampering press freedom was “completely wrong.”

“Obviously you can see how many newspapers and channels are critical of us, blasting my government,” he said.